CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When summer turns to fall, I start dreaming about turkey day. Thanksgiving is, without a doubt, my favorite holiday and my favorite meal of the year.
I'm sorry to report, though, that I'm not going to help you here with your thawing, brining, roasting or frying. There are countless experts on this subject, and renovating the turkey recipe is not my personal goal.
Nearly every Thanksgiving of my life, I have had the luxury of enjoying my Mom's bacon-rubbed, high-heat roasted turkey. Mom's Thanksgiving. Mostly her way, and it's so perfect it needs no updating. So don't even try. Mom would not approve. She does more than her share -- won't really delegate, but you can offer, 'I'll make the pies,' and she'll accept, adding, 'The crust has already been rolled out' and 'I'll peel the apples.'
There are lots of other tasks, but she has done them already, systematically throughout the week. The squash, the butter horn rolls, the stuffing. Check, check, check.
Citrus salad. I'll do the citrus salad. It is one of the highlights of this annual, big, family celebration. We have a pretty huge family, and Mom keeps adding to the list. "'So and so' is going to be alone, so he is coming over." This happens every year. A parade of interesting guests have joined us. Try keeping your teenage girls focused when a surfer from Puerto Rico is at the Thanksgiving table. Cue the giggling. Cue the citrus salad.
Over the river, through the mountains, to the coast, head south. Stop right there in the middle of Florida. At the beach, where the sweet citrus drops from the trees like the leaves in the fall.
The making of the citrus salad is a social event. There is the gathering of lots of fresh fallen oranges and grapefruit, then the careful carving off of the peels. Cut out the whole sections of juicy fruit, between the tough membranes, let the perfect segments drop into the bowl. Repeat. For a huge crowd, this process can take a while. But that's OK because while you're busy carving and sectioning, there is visiting. And you can do it a few days ahead.
Everyone loves the citrus salad. It is the palate cleanser, the digestif, that follows the richness of the holiday spread. It is an imperative part of the menu. You don't have to travel to Florida to enjoy this succulent treat. Thankfully, this time of year, Florida citrus is abundant in the produce department. You can make this, and I hope you will. If you happen to be in Florida, chances are Mom will set a place for you at the table.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Florida Citrus Salad